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  • Sri Lanka: Making Progress on Reconciliation

    Ever since Sri Lanka ended a two-and-a-half-decade civil war against the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) in 2009, the government has faced questions about alleged violations of human rights and the killing of thousands of civilians during the war. Despite the Sri Lankan government’s initial resistance to exploring these issues, it took a notable stride forward last November when it released the findings and recommendations of the Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission (LLRC).

    In May 2010, Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa created the LLRC to begin an inquiry into events that occurred during the civil war. The mandate of the LLRC was to investigate and report on what took place specifically between February 21, 2002 (establishment of the Ceasefire Agreement) and May 19, 2009 (end of the civil war).

    The LLRC listened to over 1,000 witness testimonies over a period of a year and a half, finally releasing their report in November 2011. Criticism of the report was not in short supply. The Tamil National Alliance has called the report an illegitimate document, while others said it was a good launching pad for future progress.

    Nonetheless, many view the exclusion of any reference to war crimes as suspicious. The report also doesn’t provide details on specific cases of civilian fatalities and instead alludes to “certain incidents,” thus entirely excluding cases where civilians were allegedly killed by the Sri Lankan security forces.

    The LLRC cited “non-availability of evidence” throughout much of the report to support omission of human rights violations investigations. The LLRC report directly blames the LTTE for the targeting and killing of civilians while describing civilian casualties caused by the security forces as “caught in the crossfire.” Though the report largely absolves the security forces, it does suggest that deeper investigation be launched into cases where it is unclear who was responsible for civilian deaths in no-fire zones.

    The report offers specific recommendations on the treatment of detainees and further investigations into civilian fatalities and missing persons. It proposes an “Independent Advisory Committee” to investigate the treatment of those who were arrested and detained for long periods of time under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

    It also recommends an inquiry into alleged “deliberate attacks on civilians” and more thorough investigations into missing persons and property damage. Specifically, the report suggests that a survey be distributed to the families who suffered loss of property or family members in order to identify the manner of death and injury. It suggests that aid, both legal and financial, be made available to the affected families.

    Chapter 8 of the report focuses on reconciliation and ways to promote national unity and maintain a diverse, yet peaceful, citizenry. Specific recommendations include reaching out to minority groups, addressing the grievances of the Tamil people, focusing on returning displaced Muslims to their homes, and rebuilding mosques, houses, and schools. Better resource allocation and development within villages is suggested to prevent tensions between neighboring ethnic groups. Recommendations also include creating an independent police commission that is separated from the state protection body and providing provincial police with better legal tools and expertise.

    The LLRC report concedes that the investigation into human rights violations is a vital component to national reconciliation. With the release of the LLRC and its recommendations for further dealing with alleged human rights violations, there is an opportunity to better unite the country and address international criticisms on Sri Lanka’s human rights record.

    The LLRC report is a good first step, but it needs to be followed up with action. The U.S. should actively encourage Sri Lanka to follow up on the recommendations made in the LLRC document in order to jumpstart the process of national reconciliation. The U.S. could even offer the Sri Lankan government tools to help carry out its recommendations.

    It should be made known to the Sri Lankans that with continued steps toward democracy, and, over time, growing national stability, they will benefit from new sources of trade, foreign investment, aid, and extended hands of friendship from the West.

     

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    6 Responses to Sri Lanka: Making Progress on Reconciliation

    1. Iqbal says:

      The government of Sri Lanka expelled NGOs and INGOs just before the war to prevent any witness to the conduct of it. LLRC could have analysed satellite imagery which would have formed as the high-tech evidence. LLRC did not ensure witness protection, on the contrary informed the notorious military intelligence with the names and contents of Tamil witnesses. Another serious flaw in the LLRC report is the omission of any explanation on why the government insisted on 70,000 people entrapped in the war zone and prevented adequate food and medical supplies to more than 420,000 in the so-called safe zone. Most of the evidence of ordinary people on how they were ill treated in the 'safe zone' were also omitted.

    2. Ramesh says:

      A dishonest article from Rebecca Graebner. It willfully neglects to identify what is happening in post-war srilanka, that is, ethnic cleansing and subjugation of Tamils by Sinhala nation. I guess, the dereliction of moral duty of these kind of analysts in West is due to short attention span or lack of interest.

    3. @karawewa says:

      This government has been ''appointing'' many '' bodies to find resolution of the conflict in the last six years: APRC, APCDR, ''talks with TNA'', PSC, LLRC, …. Recommendations of LLRC are already ignored and the government has moved on to the next time-buying factor: ''the senate''.
      This government (much as the previous governments) are not ashamed of themselves for being so nasty to their own fellow human beings and make fools of the citizens of the country as well as those of the international community.

    4. James Chance says:

      You argue that "The LLRC report is a good first step, but it needs to be followed up with action. The U.S. should actively encourage Sri Lanka to follow up on the recommendations made in the LLRC document in order to jumpstart the process of national reconciliation. The U.S. could even offer the Sri Lankan government tools to help carry out its recommendations."

      Well, if Sri Lanka were a country with an independent police and judiciary, it might make sense simply to call for the government to implement the LLRC report's limited investigations into human rights abuses and possible violations of the international laws of war. In a just system, these investigations might actually reveal a large degree of the truth, help bring some to justice, and thus assuage the sense of almost all Tamils (and some Sinhalese and Muslims) that the state doesn't take their suffering and ill-treatment seriously. This would then assist in the long, painful process of national reconciliation.

      Alas, this is not the case. As detailed in the much stronger and more credible report from the UN Secretary-General's panel of experts on Sri Lanka and accountability, released in April 2011, there is a long and devastating tradition in Sri Lanka of sham investigations that lead nowhere and hold no one accountable for the massive crimes committed by the Sri Lankan state and anti-state militants since 1971. Things have only gotten worse under the Rajapaksa regime. People should read Amnesty International's report on "Twenty Years of Make-Believe" and its detailed analysis of the failure of the 2006-2009 commission that was supposed to investigate sixteen separate massacres and political assassinations in Sri Lanka. No one in the end was held accountable. Many commissions before and after this have met a similar fate. Even the LLRC acknowledges this.

      So – let's start with the reality of Sri Lankan political life: the Rajapaksas will do no real investigations of anyone, much less their military leaders and political cronies, unless they are put under intense international pressure. And the US government must lead the way. This requires something a lot tougher than promises of trade benefits and other perks if they cooperate. It means threats of an international investigations by a UN body and punishment in US courts of law – beginning with President Rajapaksa's brother, Gotabaya, a US citizen who is likely guilty of the murders of hundreds, if not thousands, of people. We may never see him put on trial, but until he and his brothers fear that is a realistic possibility, there will be no progress in Sri Lanka. It's as simple as that.

    5. Tamil Victim says:

      The one and only purpose of LLRC is that srilanka state terrorism desperately want to escape from an international neutral and impartial UN monitored investigation. Srilanka state terrorism's intention neither bring the cruel criminals to justice nor give the justice to voiceless poor victims. In north and east of the island, tamil's home land, now more cruel human rights violance ( Force disapperance, rape, robbery, and unlawful detention,etc..) is carried out by srilanka armed force terrorists and paramilitatry terrorists than before but all crimes are very systamatically hided for media and out side world by srilanaka state terrorism. All uneducated sinhala street thugs are given arms, uniforms, money (salary), and ranks and are deployed in tamil's home land, on average there is one sinhala armed thug for every eleven tamil civilian in the north and east of the Island which is tamil's traditional home land since two thousand years.

    6. Victim Tamil says:

      The one and only purpose of LLRC is that srilanka state terrorism desperately want to escape from an international neutral and impartial UN monitored investigation. Srilanka state terrorism's intention neither bring the cruel criminals to justice nor give the justice to voiceless poor victims. In north and east of the island, tamil's home land, now more cruel human rights violance ( Force disapperance, rape, robbery, and unlawful detention,etc..) is carried out by srilanka armed force terrorists and paramilitatry terrorists than before but all crimes are very systamatically hided for media and out side world by srilanaka state terrorism. All uneducated sinhala street thugs are given arms, uniforms, money (salary), and ranks and are deployed in tamil's home land, on average there is one sinhala armed thug for every eleven tamil civilian in the north and east of the Island which is tamil's traditional home land since two thousand years.

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